Can a parent be held liable for a special needs child's property damage and injury of school staff?

by Anonymous
(Ohio)

I live in Ohio and have a special needs child diagnosed with conduct disorder, ADHD, and Cyclothymic Disorder. He attends an alternative school. It is well known that he is destructive, but the school staff continues to not be able to stop him from destroying property.

I witnessed one incident where the school was not stopping my child from destroying the classroom, and not saying anything to tell him to stop. The other students were removed for safety. School staff said that if he won't listen and he isn't hurting anyone, they can't stop him from destroying property that they may charge me for.

I verbally told my child to stop, and he did. Now they won't allow me to attend/observe the school staff. They have also injured him (even broken his bones, as well as bruised him multitudes of times) while doing improper CPI restraints.

He is at an alternative setting school, which is supposed to address his behavior issues as it is for emotionally disturbed children only. However, his behavior has worsened and staff at school are repeatedly being injured.

They want him to take responsibility for these actions, even though he is delayed and unable to comprehend/recall most of the consequences from one hour to the next. They have placed him into 'empty' rooms and prohibited him from leaving for many entire school days, where he has ripped electrical cords out of the walls and thrown things out of windows, etc.

Now they want to bill me for damages, for what I consider to be their inadequate knowledge and abilities to supervise, educate, or redirect him. He is on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), but improvements from their plan of actions didn't occur for the whole school year (he was suspended for most of last year).

In this situation, can they charge me for damages or sue me for injuries of school staff? Would I be considered negligent in this matter, though the actions are a known manifestation of his disability? What other actions can I take to prevent such incidents of destruction or injury to school staff when I can't be present?

What type of lawyer can help a disabled child with school related charges? Who else might I talk to? Thank you in advance for any direction you can provide.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Can a parent be held liable for a special needs child's property damage and injury of school staff?":

Anonymous (Ohio):

According to the Mayo Clinic, Cyclothymic Disorder can cause emotional ups and downs, but not as extreme as those in bipolar I or II disorder. With Cyclothymia, a person experiences periods where his or her mood noticeably shifts up and down. The symptoms do not typically include destructive behavior.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition affecting millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

What is difficult to understand is why, after the school broke your son's bones and inflicted multiple bruises, you permitted him to remain at the school. If you are dissatisfied with the school, move your son to another one. It is obvious from the facts you present, your child is not thriving in his present environment.

You want the school to be liable for not being able to properly supervise your son, however the school cannot be forced to physically stop your son from destroying property. To do so would expose the school to liability.

However, the school would be entirely within its legal rights to physically stop your son when he is assaulting another child, or is about to assault another child.

Unfortunately, your question leaves many more questions to be answered. Your set of facts is too inconsistent to be able to give you a credible answer. Your best bet is to meet with an experienced local attorney for a personalized case review.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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